Who Would Have Thought The Mothers Could Be Boring?

By Chis Welch

Melody Maker, November 2, 1968

AS THE Fathers Of Boredom, the Mothers Of Invention reigned supreme at London‘s Royal Festival Hall on Friday (Second performance.) [1] They had a most receptive audience, anxious to be rocked and shocked, who knew the records and thought "Mothers."

A stage full of equipment and musical instruments promised an orgy of music, satire, Da Da, and penetrating social comment. But leader Frank Zappa announced at the commencement of the eagerly anticipated programme that the Mothers had been mis-interpreted by the musical press, were not a satire group and had some music that would surprise us.

The only surprise was the Mothers could be so boring. The opening "sketch" took up the whole or the first half and for some reason the group thought it was worth filming. Although press cameramen were barred from performing their job, men carrying movie cameras were allowed to wander around the stage.

Frank‘s Groucho Marx-inspired "asides to the audience" raised some laughs, and everybody settled down to an evening of high humour. Unfortunately, the sketch idea began to pail and fall flat. Zappa’s music for a small string and brass section didn’t help, either. 

The second half consisted of Tuning Up, a performance apparently calculated to assure us all that serious musicianship was about to be unleashed. A mild send-up of early rock and roll singing was greeted with mild apathy, then at half past ten, after an hour and a half of fiddling about, the Mothers picked up their guitars and saxophones and began to play.

They achieved an excellent balance, and the most distortion-free sound heard from an electric band. Twin drummers drove along with a relentless off-beat, while Frank’s guitar solo was the most rewarding event of the evening. Yet the saxes sounded oddly like the NDO [2] at times. One fairly good rock number doesn’t make a concert.

It seems the Mothers are so afraid of being labelled, categorised, or committed to anything, they have backed away from everything, and become nothing. Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band — where art thou?

1. October 25, 1968, late show. Album Ahead Of Their Time is edited from this day's early and late show. A partial video of the orchestral parts is available on FZ's movie "Uncle Meat". The circulating 25 min. sounboard recording of the late show contains: Uncle Meat Variations, In The Sky, The Orange County Lumber Truck Medley (q. King Kong) (FZshows)

2. The BBC Northern Dance Orchestra (NDO) was a big band run by the BBC and formed in 1956. (wikipedia)